by Laura Crum
My last post dealt with the downside of riding—today I want to dwell on the upside. Because riding is one of the things that can turn a bad day into a good day; it can lift my mood more surely than a margarita (well, sometimes).
Here’s my story. I hadn’t had a chance to ride for a week. My husband had knee surgery ten days ago and since then I have been his devoted nurse as well as taking care of all the household chores (and he always did his fair share) and being my child’s chauffer for his many activities. Needless to say, I haven’t had a lot of extra time. And when I did find an hour to spare, the idea of saddling up and riding seemed overwhelming. I simply didn’t have the energy. Those few spare moments I preferred to sit on the porch and have a cup of tea, or just lie down and close my eyes. By the end of the week, between my husband’s pain and lack of sleep and just my general busyness, I was feeling pretty stressed. In fact, lets face it, also pretty depressed.
But yesterday I made the effort to go ride with my friends at the team roping practice. In some ways, this is like a lesson—it happens at a specific time and place. You’re either at the arena at 10:00AM on Tues and Thurs to participate or you miss it. Just like having a commitment to a lesson, having said I’d go and help is a motivator to get there. And having hauled the horses ten miles down the road, I’m not going to back out and say “I just don’t feel like it”, which is so easy to do at home. So I saddled Sunny and Henry, neither of whom had been ridden in a week, and my son and I helped the ropers gather the cattle.
Helping at the roping arena has a nice purposeful quality to it. The horses like it, as horses tend to like any purposeful activity that they can comprehend. We gather the cattle and push them down the crowding alley and into the chutes. We work the chutes from horseback (they are designed for this), which involves quite a bit of opening and closing gates from on one’s horse. We haze, which is running alongside the cattle to make them run straight for the ropers. And when, for one reason or another, a steer is not wanted by the ropers, my son gets to chase that steer down the arena (which he loves).
In between, we lope a few circles and chat with our friends, who are all horseback, too—expept the ones who are recovering from injuries—seems like there’s always at least one of these. There’s usually at least one or two folks training a young horse, or somebody has a new horse that they’re trying. There’s always lots of fun horsey stuff to talk about. We are a mixed group—four tough old cowboys in their seventies (one in his eighties), myself and two of my girlfriends (50ish women), two men in their 50’s, one guy in his 20’s, two kids about ten (one of which is my son). The guy in his 20’s moonlights as a horse trader and trainer and one of my friends and myself no longer rope—we just hang out and ride and help do the chores. Neither of the kids ropes (yet). We all have fun just being together. We know each other’s horses and we’ve all known each other for many years. It’s a great pleasure for me to see my son enjoying this “comradeship of the horse”, as we lope around together in the sunshine on our shiny mounts and chase cattle and swap stories.
So yesterday was just an ordinary day at the roping arena. We rode for a couple of hours. Both our horses were well behaved—Sunny felt good, which makes him fun to ride, he lopes right out. And suddenly, somewhere in the middle of this, looking down at the bright gold curve of Sunny’s neck with his cream white mane springing off the crest, I realized I wasn’t depressed any more. In fact, I felt just fine.
Nothing special had happened. I had just been riding for an hour on my good little horse (and boy do I love my solid little middle aged gelding who acts just fine after lots of time off) and sudenly all was right with my world.
So, I’m here to ask you guys—does this happen for lots of you, too? An ordinary ride turns a bad day into a good day? Nothing much has to happen—its just being on the back of a well behaved horse. It sure works for me. And for my kid. I’d welcome hearing your stories.
And Shanster, I know you had a great trail ride—if you read this, can you tell everybody? I was so tickled to hear how well it turned out. I’m like you—I love my little yellow mule(!) Not that your horse is a mule—that’s just my nickname for Sunny.